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October 15, 2018

Addressing Workplace Harassment

Know Your Rights

Our firm is experienced in bringing claims and advising businesses on their rights and responsibilities with respect to sexual harassment and other workplace issues.

The Courts, the state and the federal government have all recognized that every individual should work in a workplace free of discrimination and harassment. In Louisiana, employers are legally prohibited from intentionally discriminating against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This includes the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether you are an individual who believes you are being harassed or a business working to ensure best practices and a harassment-free environment, consultation with a knowledgeable attorney is essential.

Hostile Work Environment

The courts of Louisiana have held that employers and supervisors violate the anti-discrimination statute when their actions create a hostile work environment for an employee. A “hostile work environment” is created when a workplace is permeated with harassment consisting of verbal or physical conduct that has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Factors may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it reasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.

To prevail in a hostile environment harassment claim, the plaintiff must assert and prove that: (1) he or she belonged to a protected group; (2) he or she was subject to unwelcome sexual harassment; (3) the harassment was based on sex; (4) the harassment affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment and failed to take proper remedial action.

Notably, Louisiana law requires that before a claim for hostile work environment is made, the potential Plaintiff must provide notice in writing thirty days prior to filing suit, and is required to make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute prior to initiating court action. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:303.

Prescription of Claims

Workplace harassment claims are subject to a prescriptive period of three hundred days. Thus, a suit must be filed, or a complaint filed with the EEOC, within three hundred days of the discriminatory conduct or the harassed employee can lose their ability to sue. But the passage of one year may not simply immunize your business or employer. In determining whether the one year has passed for certain claims, courts examine each of the alleged incidents of harassment to determine whether it constitutes a separate cause of action, with prescription running from the date of each separate incident; or whether, as is often the case in a hostile work environment claim, the entire course of harassment constitutes a single cause of action, with prescription running from the date of the last incident or abatement of the course of conduct.

These issues are extremely fact-specific. If you need to discuss sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, or best practices for ensuring a proper and efficient business environment, call Natalie Mitchell today for a free consultation.

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